How to Keep Your Job Search a Secret (without being a jerk)

IntResume – How to get a new job when you have a job

Listen, people change jobs. A lot. Everyone knows this, but when you’re in one job and looking for another you have to be really careful.


It’s worth it, because you’ll find a better place to work if all goes well. And don’t let a bad job trap you.


So many people dislike their jobs.


Recent surveys have found over half of Americans and Australians are dissatisfied with their current jobs.


Polls like these are less common in countries such as Japan and South Korea, as is selfishly expressing such displeasure, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less present.


I find this scenario more than a bit pitiable, because I have promptly left every job I didn’t love. Why? I only have one life to live, and I’ll spend a lot of it working.


I did that exactly one time. It was a temporary job, assigned through a placement agency. I was 23, fresh out of college, totally broke. I really needed the money. It was at a paper manufacturer.


The person responsible for me immediately welcomed me with no smile, took me for a brief walk around the offices, and mentioned that people might not like me because I was taking the place of someone who was fired.


I was then seated at a desk, reminded people might not like me, and told they weren’t sure what work I would do there. I waited about an hour.


During that time people walked by my desk and did not say hello. A few mumbled to each other “Oh, that must be Suzy’s replacement.” A few cursed. I called the temp company and told them I quit.


My supervisor came and found me. “I heard you quit,” she said.


“Yes,” I nodded. “Well OK, I guess I don’t blame you” she said.


That ended my career in the paper industry.


I was broke, yet I still put a price on my self-respect and happiness, and so should you.



If you don’t like your job, and you have ability, what are you doing with your life?


I understand there are times when people have taken jobs because they needed the money, desperately. And these jobs may not be what they really want to be doing. I get that.


But when a majority of the population isn’t happy with what they spend most of their time doing, that’s kind of dumb, isn’t it?


As an aside, a great deal of this dissatisfaction is not connected to the job but to the individual and to present-day social media society where we’re constantly comparing ourselves with others, and feeling insecure.


Let’s leave that for after-work discussions.


You have every right to pursue your happiness in this life of yours. Therefore, you naturally have every right to conduct a job search while you are presently employed.


However, it’s my strong opinion that you do not have a right to waste your present employer’s resources on your personal job search. That is not only unethical and disingenuous, it’s not cool.


As with all things intResume, this is written from a global perspective. Cultures vary. Job hopping in has practically become the norm in the US and many workers are in constant fear of getting deemed redundant, and subsequently let go.


This environment can, in its own way, encourage harder work and innovation. To the contrary, it breeds continual undercurrent of distrust and disloyalty. Employees see themselves as mercenaries, moving from task to task. Some companies treat them as such. So job hunting never ends for some people.


The right mentality when you’re job hunting but have a job


Treat your company, and everyone and everything in it, with great respect

You were hired to do your job and do it well. In a progressive company, you were also hired under the understanding you would be supported in growing your skills.


Whatever your conditions, make yourself love your company. Treat every task as a chance to increase your company’s profits.


When others are slacking or being jerks, ignore them. That’s not your business. Your business is bringing great results for your company.


Often people will notice. True, sometimes they won’t. Then maybe it’s time to leave. But until your last day, leave them saying, “We’re really going to miss you.”


Be positive, keep your head in the game

Have you worked in a company where it became clear that a certain co-worker was becoming more distant, taking a bit longer at lunch, responding more slowly to email and IMs? I sure have. One was more recent. I’ll call him Steve.


When I started at my company, Steve was quirky, personable, a little shy, and clearly very intelligent. Steve often chipped in to help out others who were falling behind, he filled in as departmental manager, he was a go-to guy who would get the job done and done well.


He frequently went out to lunch with people from other departments and even organized off-site dinners so we could hang out as normal human beings.


But after about a year, Steve sort of faded. It’s hard to say where and when, but I found he didn’t give his usual helpful replies, he was often quiet at work, he was sick more and worked from home more, in meetings he’d even be checking messages on his iPhone. One day, I caught a glance at Steve’s computer screen: he was checking job listings!


I asked my manager, “What’s the deal with Steve?” and it’s clear my manager was also tuned into the situation because he meekly sighed and shrugged, “Yeah, I don’t know. I guess he’s got a lot going on.”


Here’s what Steve should have done: not change a thing. Understandably, he establishing an emotional distance from the job. We usually do that, as it helps us rationalize and justify our choice to move on.


Screw this place.


I hate coming here.


My co-workers suck.


Maybe he thought that, but he made the mistake of letting everyone know through his (in)actions. He should have gone on being helpful, had lunch with the sales staff every now and then, chimed in at meetings, all the usual things.


Instead, he made his co-workers’ lives harder and he made our manager look ineffective. Good luck with asking for recommendations in the future, Steve. He won’t be getting one from me.


Bottom line: stay cool and don’t change your outward appearance. People will get a bad vibe, your reputation will drop, and bridges won’t be burned yet, but the torch is lit.


Accept that your company owes you nothing other than your due wages


You chose to take the job and your company chose you, probably over many other candidates. Even if you have to leave, they should feel they made the right choice. You took the job.


Your company owes you nothing other than what was promised in the work agreement. Maybe your coworker is a jerk, your desk chair is squeaky, you need a new keyboard, you didn’t get a raise.


This does not warrant retaliation against the company. Often it was your fault anyhow for not doing your research on the company before taking the job.


Now you’re moving on and that’s your choice. Take responsibility for yourself.


Things to do and not do during your job search while holding down a job


Don’t tell anyone who is connected with your company, your life, and your decisions


Don’t tell anyone about your desire to switch jobs.


Strongly consider not even telling your partner. I’m serious. There are a number of reasons for this.


Foremost is that people don’t know what’s going on in your head and they’ll judge you and misread you. I guarantee it. Many people are threatened when others seek success and happiness. We cannot blame them for their instinct.


When you decide to make a big change, you send a general message you are dissatisfied with your present life and you want better.


Some will take that personally.


Some will want to knock you down, so you don’t think you’re better than others.


Others will see you doing what they want to do, but feel they can’t.


Your partner may think you’re leaving them or going to uproot the family. Your mother may think that you’re moving far away and won’t take care of her; or, conversely, that you want to move back in!


Your “friend” may think this could be a chance for himself, or his girlfriend, to snag your job. Before you know it, he’s e-mailing your manager or HR department.


It’s your life and you’re a big boy or girl now. Pursue your own path with vigor and commitment. But keep it to yourself because you’re going to upset people unintentionally.


Only your very closest and most trustworthy companions in life will support you no matter what. If you’re confident, I mean really confident, they won’t take your job hunt personally, tell them at your own peril.


A survey from the job site Indeed found that 65% of people worry that others will find out about their job search. That number should be 99%.


Absolutely do not tell anyone who works for your company or knows someone who works for your company, or is even a couple of degrees of separation away. This includes your friends. Work is a big, often dysfunctional family. You’ll never have a grasp of who’s after your position or who just loves to spread gossip.


As soon as word gets around to more than one or two people in the company that you’re looking for a job, you’ve got some explaining to do. It’s not likely to be a comfortable situation and you may quickly find yourself losing responsibility and being left out of conversations.


Don’t forget your social networks

If you take an afternoon off to hop the Tokyo Metro over to Ginza for an interview, this is not the time to Instagram your teppanyaki lunch at Uka-tei.


If you zip off for an extended weekend in Singapore for an interview, this not the time to put your selfie in front of the Malion or Raffles Hotel up on your Facebook page, or to post your check-in at Changi Airport (and it really is a great airport).


I have a strict policy of never adding co-workers as friends on social media, expect LinkedIn.


Or following them, often not even former co-workers. Yet even then, SNS, especially Facebook, still seems to suggest me as a Friend to co-workers. At the very least, set up lists in Facebook to regulate what people can see and never make all your posts public, for your safety.


It truly astounds me how much personal information people dump on social media, especially Facebook. They just give it away. We really don’t know what any social media service will do with our data.


Moreover, it’s essentially impossible to delete something entirely. As soon as you post it, it can be shared, copied, and may be backed up somewhere else.


Watch your social media, please. I care about you. And I don’t need see everywhere you’ve been and who you were with.


Cover your electronic device and other network tracks; i.e., use your own stuff

Put simply: do not use any company equipment in your job search.


Unless you’re the CTO, and even then, you may not be aware of whether your computer and your network activity is being monitored. Don’t risk it.


Do not use your office computer for personal activity.


Don’t use the office LAN or Wi-Fi, the printer, the copier (it would kind of stink to leave a copy of your cover letter in the copier wouldn’t it?). And even though it’s easy to get away with, don’t use any of the company’s office supplies.


Use your own stuff, in your own space, and on your own time. If you must take a call for a possible interview, leave the office. If you have to dash off a reply e-mail, leave the office and use your own computer, your own Wi-Fi, your own phone.


Searching and Applying


I hope I don’t have to remind you, but for Pete’s sake, don’t use your company email address! Use Gmail, as most people do. A Hotmail tells people you’re old and uncool, and maybe you are, but don’t let people know.


If you don’t have a Gmail address yet, you may have trouble getting so you can try approaches such as using your middle initial or first and middle initial plus your last name. If you have your own domain, make sure it’s not tied to a potentially competing side business, and that it doesn’t sound silly or vulgar.


LinkedIn will often be key in your job search. You may find a job there and/or you post your long-form multimedia CV there. It’s the only social site where there is essentially no choice but to show your identity and a lot of personal information, but you can still keep it strictly professional.


If you don’t have a LinkedIn page yet, set one up, or even better, hire a pro (like this guy) to do it for you. LinkedIn has an option that makes you available to appear in job searches. That choice has a system for keeping you out of suggested candidates for positions in your own company.


While it’s not 100% foolproof, I recommend my clients use this.


If you do happen to get “caught” job hunting just say sorry and that you were looking at what was out there. Shrug it off.


As most of my clients are already accomplished individuals who are valued by their employers, I suspect it can actually be a good thing if your company finds you might be casually open to new job offers.


You may just find a promotion or raise coming your way. It’s not a “strategy” per se, but simply appearing on LinkedIn as “open to offers” is not nearly as damning as getting caught looking at job listings on your office PC during work hours.


When possible, try and send your applications directly to the company, rather than through a job search site. This removes one extra step in the information chain and just may keep your resume from bouncing around a bit more than you’d like.


Networking is good; job fairs are not. You own employer may be scouting new talent at job fairs, and even if they’re not, someone who knows them is quite likely to be there. If word gets back to your company or boss, it won’t look good. Networking, however, is fine. I encourage you to attend industry events and presentations, pass out your card, get to know people. Don’t necessarily tell them you’re actively looking for work, but do show your enthusiasm for their companies and suggest some ways you could really add value for them, if you worked there. Then keep in touch.


Only apply when you know the employer; avoid blind ads.


Obviously you don’t want to apply for your own company! Moreover, but only applying to specific companies, you can do the proper research of the target company and customize your application to them.


Remind recruiters and prospective employers to keep it confidential.


This would seem to be common sense, especially for recruiters, whose very purpose is getting you to leave your job. However, make it very clear, and show what a good person you are, with a statement such as, “I value my current job greatly and I enjoy working there, but I am seeking new challenges.


Therefore, please keep any interactions we have in strict confidentiality.” Or if you’re speaking, “Please understand that I really do like my current employer, but I’ve decided to pursue new challenges. So please keep this confidential.”



Interview Day: Timing and Clothing


When you’re applying in the same area, the mostly likely time you’ll be called for an interview is, naturally, during the business day. If you can, make the interview before or after work. Most offices don’t mind if you have to arrive a bit late or leave a bit early for an “important appointment” and won’t drill you with questions. If they do, then you’re going to have to be a bit craftier.


Interviews most always call for formal business attire. These days, many companies have casual or business-casual dress codes. So if you normally go to work in khakis and a patterned Oxford shirt, or jeans and a sweatshirt, and show up one morning decked out in a sharp navy suit or smart blouse and serious pumps (especially if you’re a man), suspicions will be more than raised. In fact, the whispering may turn into a direct dialogue.


Do this instead. If on the day of an interview you have to go for an interview and can’t take a day off, try and arrange enough time to go home and change. If distance and/or time don’t permit, bring your interview attire in a separate bag, such as a gym bag.


Get to work a bit early and stow it somewhere safe, such as a storage room or at least under your desk. Better, if there are public lockers at the train station or somewhere else, stow your interview gear in there. Then quickly change in a public toilet (not pretty, I know) of a store or office building near your interview destination. Do that all in reverse if you have to go back to work.


But the best way to deal with an interview is definitely to take a full day off, or at least a half-day. Then you can mentally and physically prepare yourself, be on time, and you won’t have to change outfits like Superman or Superwoman.


Finding a job can take a long time, and you may have to wash, rinse, and repeat this strategy a number of times. Don’t forget: keep your head in the game.


Your company is still paying you. You owe them a job well done and you maintain your integrity by continuing to deliver a strong performance. Carry on with things as they are. Even if your role is changing or advancing as you plan your escape, this is your current job. You chose it.


You may be tempted to just quit, but that’s often a rash choice. So long as your job is paying the bills and not dreadfully hurting your life, hang in there, baby.


Clean out your desk, soon

Congratulations. You’ve got a new job. You’re pumped.  You’re ready to start. Until then, keep cool, watch your health, and be very careful with the information you share.


Dealing with delays

Officially getting hired and signing the contract is almost always much longer than we want.


Even when the other side is very interested from the start, it is not unusual for a hire to take a couple of months, or even longer if you have to relocate.


The new company of your dreams may keep you waiting while the VP is overseas, or the contract terms are still being decided and approved by everyone up to the boss, or your visas get issued, etc.


In a perfect world, you stay patient, carry on with your life, keep a low profile, and finally you gracefully exit your job.


This, however, is not a perfect world. There are three common scenarios as you spend your final weeks at your job.


Focusing on your work

You’ve already found the neighborhood you want to live in, you’ve studied up on the the new tasks of the new job, you’re ready. Yet still you’re waiting. It is very common to find yourself mentally “checking out”, becoming detached, either for short periods or even for the whole day. You may even have trouble getting out of bed and motivating yourself to get washed up, doing your makeup, color coordinating, or just slipping on some jeans and a clean t-shirt (that last one is for the SEs).


Even during this time, you must carry on and you must maintain your secrecy, although at this point you will probably want to tell those outside work with whom you are close. Just be certain you got the new job.


Instead of checking out, go out of your way to reinforce your good relationships at work and even to reach out to new people. You can take a few more chances now that you should have been taking earlier.


You may discover some good new connections. You may even decide you like your company. That is a much healthier frame of mind than wanting to run away as fast as you can. You’ll sleep better too.


If you start to get doubts

If you do what I said above—reach out to new people and reinforce connections—you very well may find yourself liking your current job more. This naturally will make you wonder if you want to leave.


Welcome in those thoughts.


Meditate on them.


Do your yoga.


Pray if you pray.


Think it all through. If you have two places you want to be, that’s a lot better than one. It doesn’t make your decision easier, but it does make you a happier person and I assure you the practice of reaching out and appreciating will pay off into the future.


However, your doubts may be because someone (your mother, your so-called best friend, your college classmate) told you that you should stop being so restless and you should stay with your secure job.


Should, should, should.


Everyone knows what’s best for you when you’re trying to move onward and upward.


Respectfully block them out. Do this with gratitude for their concern.

Reflect on your wants.

Reflect on why you started your job search.

Reflect on the amazing feeling you got during your interview.


Question all of that. You won’t usually get a definite answer, but your heart will talk to you.


Listen to it.


I’ll end this section with two experienced-based reflections:

1) Regrets suck.

2) It sucks to have regrets.


When things get a bit ugly (take this job and shove it)

This is the other end of the spectrum, and it’s the unhealthiest response short of something criminal.


You hate your damn job, your damn commute, your damn boss, your damn coworker, the damn air conditioning, and your damn resume/CV writer who helped you get the interview that led to your great new job offer.


You just want to get the heck out of that place and tell everyone to [insert your favorite nasty verb in present tense] themselves.


Well, you can quit. Just up and quit. You can do it in dramatic fashion and burn all your bridges, but is that going to do anything more than give you a temporary rush of adrenaline?


Is it going to make anyone’s life better? Unlikely.


So you can quit properly, put in your notice and make it final. If you’re willing to live with a bit of unsureness until your new job is secured then sure, go for it. But you’d better be darn sure you go that new job, or you’ve got a Plan B (and C and D, because B often fails too).


I won’t go further into putting in your notice; i.e., telling them you’re leaving. That deserves its own post, because it can trigger some surprises. For now, we’ll say it’s an option that needs some thought.


The healthiest countermeasure here is the same as what I said above: reach out. Embrace your good connections, try and establish new connections. Your job has gotten stale at this point and your negative outlook continually reinforces to you that everyone and everything about your work absolutely stinks.


That’s impossible.


There must be a few cool people.


The free coffee’s good.


The long commute gives your time to take a Coursera course or read a good book.


Most likely, the most compelling reason to be as positive as you can is money (and the security that brings).


The moment you tell them you’re quitting you have officially started on your path to exit. Be ready for that.


Unless they beg you to stay, they will quickly go about replacing you. You’ll be excluded from office chatter. Fewer people will stop offering help or compliments.


Some people will start to distance themselves. Others will wish you the best, while noting that you have a nice desk they’ll take as soon as you’re gone.


Look, working in a “toxic workplace” really does stink. However, often you are part of that toxicity, with your negativity. Don’t be. Stay positive, help others, keep your head in there, tough it out.


When you hand in your office keys and have your passwords changed, the show is over; no more money, no more job.


Clean out your desk, really


Good luck with your new job.


So if you’re among those who are looking for an exit, you’ll need a good resume or CV, and a good LinkedIn profile. That’s why I’m here for. I know the thrill of getting a new job and turning a page on your life. When it’s global, it’s even more exciting. I’ll help you feel that joy. Contact me and let’s start your new life.

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